Indexed on: 09 Mar '16Published on: 14 Jul '15Published in: Cladistics
Although 11 studies have addressed the systematics of the four families and 281 fish species of the ecomorphologically diverse Anostomoidea, none has proposed a global hypothesis of relationships. We synthesized these studies to yield a supermatrix with 463 morphological characters among 174 ingroup species, and inferred phylogeny with parsimony and Bayesian optimization. We evaluated the applicability of the supermatrix approach to morphological datasets, tested its sensitivity to missing data, determined the impact of homoplastic characters on phylogenetic resolution, and determined the distribution of homologies and homoplasies on the topology. Despite more than 60% missing data, analyses supported the monophyly of all families, and phylogenetic structure degraded only with inclusion of species with high percentages of missing data and in analyses limited to homoplasies. The latter differs modestly from the full matrix indicating phylogenetic signal in homoplastic characters. Character distributions differ across the phylogeny, with a greater prevalence of homologies at deeper nodes and homoplasies nearer the tips than expected by chance. This may suggest early diversification into distinct bauplans with subsequent diversification of faster evolving character systems. The morphological supermatrix approach is powerful and allows integration of classical data with modern methods to examine the evolution of multiple character systems.